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In what I think is a fairly recent development, North American universities and other non-profit entities are using using the word advancement for fundraising, public relations, and related activities:

The Office of Advancement supports the mission of Georgetown University and its faculty and students through developing relationships with key constituencies.

Staff who work in the Office of Advancement have one mission: to move people to extraordinary levels of support for Queen's University.

The Office of Advancement is dedicated to supporting the mission of The University of Alberta by fostering relationships that result in continuing goodwill and financial support from alumni, parents, friends, and organizations.

The Office of Advancement will generate and develop the best relationships and resources to achieve Michigan Engineering objectives.

The University Advancement division promotes and supports the University of Toronto by engaging a worldwide community of alumni and friends in support of its work as one of the world's leading research universities.

Advancement Operations, with offices at 2080 Addison and 2000 Center Streets, develops and delivers the centralized business systems and services that support the work of UC Berkeley’s 30 decentralized fundraising units.

The Office of Advancement is the primary strategic link between The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and its principal constituencies.

Advancement Department — Helping Gordon College Grow.

On behalf of the university community, the Department of University Advancement creates and builds relationships with friends, supporters, and our worldwide network of proud Carleton graduates.

University Advancement is responsible for creating awareness, building relationships and generating support for UC Irvine’s teaching, research and public service missions.

The Office of College Advancement (Development & Foundations, Alumni Relations, College Relations) works to enhance, promote and support the Academic Programs, Research and Extension efforts of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences [at North Carolina State University].

University Advancement at Carnegie Mellon connects and builds community with alumni, raises funds that contribute to the university mission, manages university brand and reputation, as well as numerous other university functions.

The mission of University Advancement is to secure support for Michigan State University in terms of money, talent, service and advocacy by delivering an integrated program of communications, marketing and engagement.

Royall & Company Advancement Services is a new addition to the direct marketing programs Royall has been offering to colleges and universities for more than 20 years.  We provide a proprietary communications strategy that will create and cultivate relationships to support total giving, including Annual Giving, while building a pipeline for Major Gifts.

Does anyone know who first had this (terminological) idea or where it originated? And has it been spreading by simple cultural contagion, or is there an organization or association that has been actively promoting the idea?

The term that I'm more familiar with is Development, which if anything is even less transparent, so I guess it also makes sense to ask when and where people started using development to mean "fundraising". The OED's entries for advancement and development are both innocent of these fundraising-related meanings; nor have I found any other dictionary that has caught on.

I haven't found any examples of for-profit companies re-naming their PR outfits as "Advancement Departments" or the like.

Update — Here's one in Australia:

The Advancement Office at the University of Melbourne aims to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of mutually beneficial relationships between the University and its alumni, friends and benefactors.


  1. Kory said,

    July 2, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

    Well, not as recent as you'd think: 18 years ago, I did a work-study stint in my college's Office of Advancement, stuffing solicitation envelopes.

    I'll have to go through our files a bit more thoroughly, but I found at least one cit for this that dates back to 1983. My guess is that its proliferation is cultural, not the machinations of any one group–but my guesses have gone wrong before.

  2. Harry said,

    July 2, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

    My experience with Advancement Offices goes at least as far back as Kory's. I've never heard of an organization pushing the phraseology; my presumption was that one organization started it because talking about actually fund raising is just too, too tacky, don't you know? It was then talked up at the annual conference of professional fund raisers and idea caught on.

    I can't wait to see what takes it place. "Undertaker" used to be euphemism, too.

  3. Sara said,

    July 2, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

    I have a background in Applied Linguistics but work in this field. The naming of these types of departments is fascinating.

    Wonder if the use of the word can be connected to CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) which was renamed in 1974:

  4. jfruh said,

    July 2, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

    I still don't understand how "development" came to mean more or less the same thing.

  5. Jeff Carney said,

    July 2, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

    We USED to have an Advancement office. Now we have a Foundation. It's run by the Director of Philanthropic Initiatives & Partnerships. We're partnering all over the damned place.

    Fortunately, the English Department is still the English Department.

  6. EndlessWaves said,

    July 2, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

    It does sound rather old fashioned, as if they'd just stepped out of the sixteenth century after reading about parliament passing The Act for the Advancement of True Religion.

  7. John Swindle said,

    July 2, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

    If the meaning of "development" and "advancement" becomes too clear, we'll call it "sustainability." I think I've already heard the last for endowment funds.

  8. D.O. said,

    July 3, 2012 @ 1:15 am

    Some of the quotes in the OP are better than others, but reading the first one I immediately wished to never read anything written by the person who produced it again.

    [(myl) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.]

  9. Mark said,

    July 3, 2012 @ 10:11 am

    "And has it been spreading by simple cultural contagion, or is there an organization or association that has been actively promoting the idea?"

    It isn't being actively promoted… it is merely Advancing. ;-)

  10. Michael Cargal said,

    July 3, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    The County of San Diego (California) uses "advance" as a substitute for "retreat," as in "Management will attend an advance on Thursday." It is said to sound less defeatist.

  11. blahedo said,

    July 3, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    For a specific time-datum: I started at Knox College (in Illinois) in 2003, and they had just changed from "Development" to "Advancement" a year or two earlier.

  12. Mr Punch said,

    July 4, 2012 @ 6:12 am

    The term "foundation," cited by Jeff Carney, generally refers to a (legally) independent fund-raising entity, often used in public institutions to avoid restrictive rules on the handling of government money.

    "Advancement," I believe, reflects the institutionalization within universities of activities formerly associated with occasional capital campaigns — that is, the melding of annual fund development with a more intensive effort to raise larger sums.

  13. spherical said,

    July 4, 2012 @ 11:21 am

    Mark said: "It isn't being actively promoted… it is merely Advancing. ;-)"

    I think there might be a lot of truth in there. Colleges that are still running offices of development are gradually coming to realize that the term has become tainted by its association with money, er, funds, pardon my French. So they move on to the next OED entry until that is fully covered in excrement as well.

    I'm curious to learn whether words ever decontaminate. Will our descendants see the day when Yale sports a Panhandling Department?

  14. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 4, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

    To the extent "advancement" is replacing "development" (which is my impressionistic sense not confirmed by any sort of rigorous corpus searches), it does strike me as a "euphemism treadmill" sort of phenomenon as spherical suggests. The young professor who taught me the Descartes-to-Kant survey modern philosophy class back in the spring of '84 subsequently left the tenure-track life for fundraising and after various intermediate stops is now the chief (or at least one of the chief) fundraiser(s) for UC-Berkeley, where his title is the splendidly opaque "Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations." On the other hand, the now-retiring incumbent in that position at Yale had the more straightforward title "Vice President for Development" and had (per some quick googling) had the same title previously at Cornell.

  15. David Walker said,

    July 6, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

    Mark L, obviously you meant to start this entry by saying "In what I think is a fairly recent advancement, …"

  16. Jen said,

    July 9, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

    A bit late to this party, but I work for CASE (mentioned above). If our archives are to be believed, the term “institutional advancement” was first coined in 1958 by CASE's predecessors, the American College Public Relations Association and the American Alumni Council, during a conference entitled "The Greenbrier Conference on Advancing Understanding and Support of Higher Education."

    So it really started out as an alumni relations/university communications term, and expanded to include fundraising and "advancement services," the latter of which includes fields like prospect management and data mining. But as is amply shown above, it's now used in several ways, often as an umbrella term including all the disciplines or for various development folks. Hope this helps!

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